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Handmade floral whitework matzoh cover recovered by a Polish Jewish survivor

Object | Accession Number: 2012.480.2

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    Brief Narrative
    Doily style whitework matzoh cover made for Passover seder, the only item recovered by Ajzyk Celnik upon his return to his hometown, Kalisz, Poland, after the war. It has the words "Seder shel Pesach" in eyelet embroidery. The cover was saved and returned by the superintendent of the building where Ajzyk lived. Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany in September 1939. Ajzyk, a kosher butcher, his wife Hanka and their sons Samuel and Jakub left Kalisz, and, by 1940, were living in Krakow. The family was sent to Warsaw where Hanka and the boys perished. Ajzik was transported to Jaworzno labor camp, a subcamp of Auschwitz concentration camp, which opened in 1943. He was tattooed with the number 138492. He may have been sent to a slave labor camp in Czestochowa that supplied factory workers for HASAG (Hugo Schneider Aktiengesellschaft), a munitions manufacturer. Ajzyk was liberated in January 1945. He walked to Zdunska Wola, Poland, still dressed in his striped uniform and wooden shoes, carrying only his camp blanket. Ajzyk resettled in Zdunska Wola, where many of his wife's relatives had lived before the Holocaust. In 1946, Ajzyk married Chaja Kawalek, his first wife's second cousin, and the couple had a daughter. Chaja survived several concentration camps but nearly her entire family was murdered by the Germans during the destruction of the Jewish ghetto in Zdunska Wola in August 1942.
    recovered:  1945
    recovery: Kalisz (Poland)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Regina Feierberg
    Subject: Ajzyk Celnik
    Ajzyk Celnik (1900-1964) was born in Sieradz, Poland. His parents may have been Mosche and Perl Celnik. Ajzyk moved to Kalisz as a young man and apprenticed to a kosher butcher. A few years later, he married Hanka Szerer, the butcher’s daughter. They had two sons: Samuel (Mula) and Jakub (Kuba). Hanka was close to relatives, including the Kawalek family, in Zdunska Wola, whose family members also worked as kosher butchers. At some point, Ajzyk and his family left Kalisz, possibly for Wieliczka near Krakow in southern Poland.

    Nazi Germany occupied Poland in September 1939. German military authorities immediately began persecuting and isolating the Jewish population. In May 1940, the Germans began to expel Jews from Krakow to the countryside. In August, Ajzyk was registered by the Jewish Community as married and living in Krakow. By August 4, he received a notice that he was to leave for Warsaw and he went there with his family. At some point, Ajzyk was sent by the Germans to a labor camp, probably Jaworzno, a subcamp of Auschwitz concentration camp, which opened in 1943. He was tattooed with the number 138492. He may later have been transferred to a slave labor camp in Czestochowa that supplied factory workers for HASAG (Hugo Schneider Aktiengesellschaft), a munitions manufacturer that was the third largest consumer of forced labor during the war. Ajzyk was liberated in January 1945. He walked to Zdunska Wola, still dressed in his striped camp uniform and wooden camp shoes, carrying only his camp blanket. Hanka and the children perished during the Holocaust.

    Ajzyk settled in Zdunska Wola and developed a relationship with Chaja Kawalek, his wife's second cousin. Chaja (1911-1985) was born to Zalman Leib and Sara Rywka Krakowska Kawalek. Her father died in 1914 from complications following surgery. Her mother remarried. Chaja had six siblings total from both marriages. Most of Chaja’s family was murdered at the Jewish cemetery during the destruction of the Zdunska Wola ghetto in August 1942. Chaja and her brother Jakub, born in 1910, were sent to Łódź ghetto in September. Chaja worked as a maid for a Jewish Council member and experienced the extreme food shortages of the city. In August 1944, Chaja was deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp. On September 10, she was transferred with 500 other women to Wittenberg, a subcamp of Sachsenhausen, where they were slave laborers for the Arada Werke military airplane factory. Chaja and a few other women escaped in April 1945 during the advance of the Soviet Army. Chaja returned to Zduńska Wola. Her brother Jakub also returned after liberation from a concentration camp. He opened a butcher shop and supported the family.

    Ajzyk wanted to start a family with Chaja, but she did not wish to marry him in case Hanka, her cousin and Ajzyk’s wife, returned. Chaja had been close to Hanka and the two boys. When their daughter, Sara Rywka, called Regina, was born in 1946, Chaja relented and married Ajzyk. The family wanted to immigrate to the United States, but Ajzyk’s health was poor and they remained in Zdunska Wola. Ajzyk took a job in a tannery, but he was generally too ill to work. Ajzyk died in 1964, in Zdunska Wola.

    Regina attended medical school in Łódź, and married fellow medical student, Zygmunt Feierberg. In 1969, the couple, along with Chaja (Hela) immigrated to Lund, Sweden. Chaja died in Malmo, Sweden in 1985.

    Physical Details

    Jewish Art and Symbolism
    Object Type
    Matzah covers (aat)
    Physical Description
    Circular white cloth doily with scalloped edges with eyelet centers. The center field is solid cloth with three Hebrew words created in pulled thread eyelet work with stitched edges. Around the center is a floral and leaf design with satin stitched details on the petals and leaves which are outlined and connected with eyelet work.
    overall: Height: 16.000 inches (40.64 cm) | Width: 16.750 inches (42.545 cm)
    overall : cloth, thread
    front, whitework : Hebrew text [Seder shel Pesach]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The matzoh cover was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2012 by Regina Feierberg, the daughter of Ajzyk and Chaja Kawalek Celnik.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2022-08-02 09:17:45
    This page:

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